Training Camp

Top 5 Edge Rushers Heading to the Senior Bowl

Top 5 Edge Rushers Heading to the Senior Bowl

Jim Nagy and his staff have done an outstanding job of obtaining high quality prospects for this year’s Senior Bowl. One position group that has a ton of talent in this year’s Senior Bowl is the edge rushers. These edge rushers have a great mix of players with different body types and skill sets. A majority of the edge rushers are projected to be selected on Day 2 of the NFL Draft with a few possible Day 1 picks as well. While we are excited to see all of them in Mobile, here are the top five edge rushers.

  1. Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina

Who is he?

Kingsley Enagbare is a senior from the University of South Carolina, who has been a starter for the Gamecocks each of the last two seasons. He broke out in 2020 with 6 sacks and earned First-Team All-SEC honors. He did see a dip in sacks in 2021; however, his pressure rate increased, and he was disruptive all season. He had offseason hip surgery in 2020, which is something that could possibly impact his draft stock.

What does he do best?

Enagbare has an NFL frame, coming in at 6040, 265 pounds. He has a bunch of tools that make him very enticing, including solid length and play strength that he uses to his advantage. His biggest strength is his ability to get off blocks. He needs some polishing in his technique as a pass rusher, but his length, frame, and play strength offer quality upside as a pass rusher. Enagbare projects best as a 5T in a 4-3 scheme.

What do we want to see from him at the Senior Bowl?

One thing we want to see from him at the Senior Bowl is winning his 1 on 1’s with his speed and athleticism. He is not the greatest athlete, so seeing him win with speed would help his stock tremendously. We also want to see him use counters more when rushing the passer. Too often, he would rely on his initial pass rush move and get complacent if it wasn’t working. Adding counters to his pass rush plan will be very encouraging. Lastly, we want to see him play with a high motor all week and accept the coaching he will be getting. He had an inconsistent motor at times during the season, and his play diagnosis wasn’t always perfect. Kingsley Enagbare has a lot of upside, and if he can show us some of these things listed, he is going to turn a lot of heads this week. 

  1. Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State

Who is he?

Jermaine Johnson II was one of the most impressive transfers in the country and one of the best players in the ACC. The former JUCO product and Georgia Bulldog transferred to Florida State to finish his collegiate career. He had a monster year. Johnson finished with 18 TFLs and 12 sacks in 2021, earning himself ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He has a lean build, coming in at 6045, 262 pounds and has long arms.

What does he do best?

Johnson II does a lot of things well but is best known for his length and speed. He does a good job of utilizing his long arms to leverage gaps in the run game, and his length offers high upside as a pass rusher. He has a wide variety of pass rush moves that he likes to use including clubs, swipes, and even spin moves. He does not have one dominant pass rush move, but his wide repertoire offers excitement, especially when you consider his good speed and athletic ability. Johnson II fits best as a standing 5T in a 4-3 scheme, and he can also play with his hand in the dirt.

What do we want to see from him at the Senior Bowl?

We want to see Johnson II win consistently in 1 on 1’s versus top competition using his speed and hands. If he wants to be successful in the league, he is going to need to be an effective speed rusher who wins consistently with speed and hands. This is a perfect opportunity for him to show he can win versus some of the top OTs in the country. We also want to see him play with better leverage and body control. He has a bad tendency to play too upright, and this will make it a lot harder for him to be successful. Lastly, we want to see him get off the ball quickly and show good snap timing/anticipation. Multiple times versus Florida, he was caught off balance in his stance due to him having poor snap timing/anticipation. If he can improve his snap timing/anticipation, he will be able to maximize his athletic ability and become a much better pass rusher.

  1. Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati

Who is he?

People tend to focus on Desmond Ridder and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner because Ridder is the QB and Gardner is one of the top prospects in the country. But Sanders deserves attention. Myjai is coming off his second consecutive First-Team All-AAC season and has been one of the best defensive linemen in the country. Myjai Sanders was a huge reason for Cincinnati’s success and first College Football Playoff appearance. Sanders did not have great sack production, but he was still productive all season for the Bearcats.

What does he do best?

Sanders is disruptive due to his good length, motor, and most importantly, hand usage. He has heavy hands and does a great job of utilizing clubs and swipes to get by OL when rushing the passer. He excels at using speed to power as a pass rusher. He uses his burst and speed to generate power and works his hands after his initial bull rush to create problems for OL. He has a good motor, and is relentless when trying to get to the quarterback. He fits best as a weakside 5-9T in a 4-3 scheme that allows him to use speed to power and use his motor to make plays on the backside.

What do we want to see from him at the Senior Bowl?

Sanders looks thin on tape and only weighs about 255. We want to see him show a good anchor versus these big OL. He is going to see some big boys, and it will help his stock tremendously if he can show he can hold his ground and set the edge versus these big OL. We also want to see him get to the QB. Only totaling 2.5 sacks in 2021 is going to be a concern for teams, so seeing him get to the QB will be big for him. Lastly, we want to see him win versus Power 5 players. As someone who did not play Power 5 football, people are going to question his ability as he played worse competition during college. He saw limited snaps versus Power 5 players and will need to prove that he can win versus the best.

  1. Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State

Who is he?

Arnold Ebiketie was one of the most impressive transfers of the 2021 season, coming to Penn State from Temple. A redshirt senior, he had a career year this season for Penn State. This was very encouraging to see considering he took a big jump in competition coming from Temple. Against Michigan, who earned the Joe Moore Award (top offensive line unit in the country), he had his best game of the season totaling 9 pressures, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. 

What does he do best?

At 6031, 256 pounds, Ebiketie projects as a 3-4 OLB. Ebiketie is a very well-rounded prospect, and he is debatably the most explosive of this whole group. His best traits are his explosiveness and speed and these traits make it hard for OL to stay in front of him. He has good athleticism and body control that allows him to bend the corner, and he has the play strength to win with power as well. His outstanding linear speed allows him to close on the QB very quickly which is very important in today’s game with the rise of mobile QBs. He also defends well versus the run, due to his play strength allowing him to anchor vs. OL and control TEs.

What do we want to see from him at the Senior Bowl?

Ebiketie is the top 3-4 OLB at the Senior Bowl, so we want to see him be dominant all week, especially as a pass rusher. A dominant week could push him from a day 2 pick to a late day 1 pick. We also would like to see him win with his hands as a pass rusher. This is something that will take his game to the next level. Some minor things we would like to see include him playing with his hand in the dirt and him in coverage. He played with his hand in the dirt in college, but looks more comfortable in a two point stance. He also did not see many snaps in coverage, and this is something he will need to work on if he wants to be an every down 3-4 OLB. If he can do these two things well this week, this will make him a more versatile prospect and help boost his stock. Lastly, we would like to see him have good snap timing/anticipation. He sometimes tends to line up too far off the ball and his timing off the line is thrown off. Seeing an improvement here will be encouraging.

  1. Cameron Thomas, San Diego State

Who is he?

Cameron Thomas is a redshirt junior who has had a very good career at San Diego State. Thomas enters the Senior Bowl coming off a dominant season. In 2021, he put up unbelievable numbers. He had 11.5 sacks, 19 QB hits, 21 TFLs, and 71 tackles. This earned him Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. He is a very polished prospect who is expected to go in early day 2 and has day 1 potential in the NFL Draft.

What does he do best?

The best attribute Thomas has is his versatility. Unique to the rest of the edge rushers, Cameron Thomas has aligned all over the defensive line. San Diego State loved moving him around creating mismatches. He has seen snaps as a 0T, 1T, all the way to a wide 5T. It is rare to see an edge rusher play 0T, but Cameron Thomas was trusted to occasionally play it at San Diego State. At 6050, 270, Thomas has the frame and play strength to play both inside and outside. Thomas is a player that defensive coordinators are going to love to play around with. He is both stout against the run and a good pass rusher. He also has very active hands and an outstanding motor, making him a relentless pass rusher. He is very effective on stunts and twists. He has the play strength and motor to thrive as a penetrator, along with the athleticism and timing to be an effective wrapper. He fits best as a 5T in a 4-3 scheme; however, he can also play as a DE in a 3-4 scheme. Whichever team selects him should use him primarily as a 5T in a 4-3 scheme, while moving him along the defensive line to create mismatches. He should go to a team that loves to utilize stunts and twists.

What do we want to see from him at the Senior Bowl?

Although he was dominant this past season, we want to see him win consistently in 1 on 1’s in Mobile. He faced one Power 5 team all season, and it was Arizona. He wasn’t exactly playing Alabama and Georgia every week, so we want to see him compete and win at the highest level. Seeing him in 1 on 1’s versus Trevor Penning and Daniel Faalele are matchups we are dying to see. We also want to see him win consistently on straight rushes. A lot of his production came from stunts and twists. Whether he wins with speed or power, seeing him win his 1 on 1’s consistently will be important for him.